The business and social impacts of cyber security issues

With multiple recent high profile attacks targeting household names and large employers, individuals increasingly fear cyber crime and its resulting consequences at work as well as at home, according to GFI Software.

The survey revealed that 47 per cent of respondents have been the victims of at least one cybercrime in the last year alone. Credit card fraud was the most prevalent form of cyber crime, with 20 per cent of respondents having been hit in the last year, followed by 16.5 per cent having at least one social media account breached or defaced.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 41 per cent believe banks will be the main target for cyber criminals in the coming year
  • A quarter (23 per cent) are concerned that large business institutions will be targeted for crime and cyber espionage, but only 9.5 per cent believe retailers will be a major target, despite the potential for high levels of credit card data theft
  • With growing volumes of healthcare data being digitized, nine per cent are concerned that cyber criminals will turn their attention to the NHS and private health insurers in the coming year
  • The perceived growing threat from cyber attacks is hurting adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, with nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) either viewing Internet-connected home devices as too risky to own, or having reservations about making further purchases
  • 55 per cent of respondents believe malware still poses the biggest threat to both individual and business information security.

The research revealed that almost all cyber crimes have a noticeable, detrimental impact on businesses, with 88 per cent of those surveyed believing that a cyber attack against their employer would have measurable financial and productivity implications. A further 3.5 per cent believe that a single cyber attack against their employer could easily put the organization out of business permanently.

“Cyber attacks have profound consequences for the business community, whether organizations are the target, or the victim of an attack elsewhere. In the last few months alone we’ve seen major corporations targeted in systematic acts of espionage and geopolitical retaliation, as well as hundreds of thousands – potentially millions – of individuals affected by the fallout of data being stolen and misused,” said Sergio Galindo, general manager of GFI Software.

“Usernames, passwords, credit card data, health records – malicious use of this data by criminals can quickly create financial hardship and significant stress for affected individuals, while the negative fallout for organizations the data was stolen from can range from loss of reputation to fines, falling sales, civil and criminal legal proceedings and more,” Galindo added.

Until recently, the thought of hackers gaining access everyday public and utility services in order to cause havoc and disrupt society was the stuff of movies, such as the film Die Hard 4.0. However, with everything from traffic lights and CCTV cameras to power stations and smart meters being computerized, automated and networked to improve efficiency, centralize management and reduce cost, these services are at greater risk. This was highlighted in November 2014 when the NSA reported that the US power grid was successfully hacked.

As a result, two thirds of those surveyed now believe the hijacking of major services (utility services, traffic management, transport etc.) by cyber criminals is a genuine threat to UK national and infrastructure security.

In addition, 43 per cent believe that increased cyber crime is making life harder, by making it more challenging to access to everyday services, with 30 per cent believing the heightened cyber crime environment is a hindrance to productivity. Our reliance on digital devices makes us more of a target, with 21 per cent believing that our everyday use of technology has left individuals and businesses more exposed than ever to virtual crime. Most worrying is that a third of those surveyed believe acts of cyber crime and cyber terrorism are likely to spill over into physical acts of crime and terrorism.

The survey also revealed that growing cyber security concerns have prompted people to take more aggressive steps to protect themselves and their online footprint, both at work and at work:

  • 57 per cent claim to now change passwords for web sites and online services on a regular basis
  • 52 per cent have taken steps to strengthen their anti virus protection
  • 49 per cent have activated PIN or password protection on tablets and smartphones
  • 46 per cent now avoid duplicating passwords across multiple sites and services
  • 28 per cent have, where supported, activated two-factor authentication for logging in
  • Six per cent have done nothing to improve their online security.

The blind, independent study was conducted for GFI Software by Opinion Matters and surveyed 1,008 UK adults, working for companies with up to 5,000 staff that use a computer or mobile computing devices.

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